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APLU COVID-19 Resources Pages
APLU has produced a comprehensive rundown of its COVID-19-related advocacy efforts and a detailed agency-by-agency analysis of the U.S. government’s response to the pandemic and its fallout.

Department of Education to Distribute $6 Billion in Aid to Institutions
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the process and funding levels for disbursing emergency grants to students under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The main part of institutions’ funding (total of $12.56 billion for all institutions) in the CARES Act requires that at least 50 percent of funding to be used for emergency grants to students. Institutions can use the other 50 percent to “cover costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus.”

ED’s letter to presidents and chancellors provides instructions on how institutions can access the student side of the funding. On a call with stakeholders, Acting Assistant Secretary Diane Jones said institutions that submit their certificate of agreement form through grants.gov can possibly expect a release of funds as early as later this week. On the call, ED officials noted that Congress provided for greater flexibility with the funding for institutions (the other half) and that it would follow up with additional information on this part within the next two weeks.

The Department of Education is working on an FAQ document to address outstanding questions on permissible use of funds.

CRS Details COVID-19 Impact on the Federal Research Enterprise
On April 10, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the federal research and development (R&D) enterprise. APLU’s Debbie Altenburg and Bethany Johns were interviewed for the report, which details the COVID-19 related disruptions at R&D institutions, including lab closures, cancellation of conferences, unplanned costs for shutdowns and restarting of R&D projects, and more. The report also outlines financial and infrastructure effects, including university-based research infrastructure, and provides information on current and potential actions Congress may want to consider either through oversight or legislative actions.

Associations Request Guidance on International Student Visa Issues
On April 8, the six presidential higher education associations, including APLU, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting additional guidance for international students currently studying in the U.S. and for students hoping to study in the U.S. in the upcoming fall 2020 semester. The letter outlines concerns with international student visa issues impacting higher education institutions and cautions that ongoing complications could lead to adverse effects on international student enrollment.

Trump Administration Appeals “Unlawful Presence” Ruling
The Trump administration filed an appeal earlier this month challenging the U.S. federal district’s court decision to issue summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and a nationwide injunction on the administration’s “unlawful presence” policy. Since 2018, the administration has been embroiled in a suit filed by four colleges challenging the policy, which changed the way the federal government calculates visa overstays for international students and visiting scholars on F, J and M visas. APLU and the Association of American Universities (AAU) contributed to help fund the litigation.

Under the administration’s policy, individuals who accrue more than 180 days of “unlawful presence” before departing the United States can be barred from re-entering the country for a period of three or 10 years. APLU and its partner associations submitted joint comments in response to the initial policy memo announcing the change, which was not made through notice-and-comment rulemaking in compliance with the Administrative Procedures Act.

FY2021 Budget & Appropriations Update
Last week, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) assigned 302(b) allocations to House appropriations subcommittees for the FY2021 appropriations cycle, which provide a framework of overall funding levels. With allocations assigned, House Democrats have begun remotely drafting appropriations bills and hope to complete subcommittee and full committee markups of all 12 spending bills by the end of this summer.

In a Bloomberg report last Friday, several key appropriators expressed support for an amendment to the budget agreement reached last year that would raise the budget caps in FY2021 and exempt some key programs from the limits agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019. The current budget agreement allows $671.5 billion for defense and $626.5 billion for nondefense spending. A Lowey spokesperson said the Chairwoman “strongly supports budget cap exemptions for programs that relate to coronavirus response…Sadly, this pandemic has laid bare how budget caps restrict resources for important federal efforts like public health. It is critical that we don’t allow such shortsighted limitations to continue this year.” House Labor-Health & Human Services-Education Subcommittee Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) agreed that budget caps should be raised to support biomedical programs, noting “we can keep the budget caps in for most everything else…But in this particular area, for me, you’re either going to raise the budget caps or you’re going to have to move some money from other places that we would not have anticipated moving, absent this pandemic.”

It is not yet clear if the administration will support an increase to the budget caps for certain bills. Additionally, Senate and House leaders continue to be at an impasse over border wall funding and other issues that could stall negotiations before the fiscal year ends on September 30.

APLU continues to engage in FY2021 advocacy and will update the APLU FY2021 appropriations priorities chart when markups begin.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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